Sometime this month, about 1,100 employees of Dothan City Schools will receive a bonus in their paychecks — $500 for full-time workers and $250 for part-timers before taxes. It won’t change anyone’s life, but it’s a nice windfall during the Christmas season, and is intended to make the workforce feel appreciated.
Public school workers continually get short shrift with regard to salary increases, all too often being passed over until an election year, when state lawmakers hope to endear themselves to a large bloc of voters by approving a pay hike for public employees. Because of that, it would ordinarily be difficult to argue with a one-time gesture of appreciation, even when it will cost the school system upwards of $750,000.
Unfortunately, these aren’t ordinary times for Dothan City Schools. The system has just undergone restructuring, and in the last two years has taken on substantial debt — a bond issue of $11.9 million for energy improvements approved last month and a $15 million bond issue last year to fund restructuring costs and facility upgrades.
In October, Superintendent Phyllis Edwards asked the school board to petition the Dothan City Commission for a 1-cent sales tax for education, and to begin working toward obtaining an additional five mills of sales tax to shore up school funding.
To its credit, the school board did not act on the request.
Perhaps board members are more sensitive to the optics involved in taking on tens of millions of dollars in debt and then asking taxpayers to foot the bill with increased sales and property taxes.
With that hanging over their heads, they might have thought twice about how an expensive Christmas bonus would look as well.